The Wharton School will no longer offer the actuarial science concentration to freshmen and incoming students, but sophomores, juniors, and seniors concentrating in the discipline will be permitted to continue their studies.
Janet Conway, a senior director in the Wharton dean’s office, cited "an upcoming faculty retirement" as a reason for the Wharton concentration's uncertain future in an email to The Daily Pennsylvanian. Conway wrote that Wharton is doing "whatever it takes for students currently enrolled in these programs to complete their studies as expected."
Wharton spokesperson Emily Hemming declined to answer any follow-up questions because administrators are still "working on a solution."
Although Penn made no formal announcement of the change, a notice on the actuarial science webpage reads, “This concentration may only be declared by students in the Classes of 2020, 2021, and 2022 who have already completed STAT 451 and will have STAT 453 completed by the end of spring 2020.”
Actuarial science involves compiling and analyzing statistics to calculate risks in insurance and finance. The profession applies mathematics to model uncertainty and evaluates the probability and financial consequences of future events.
It is unclear whether the actuarial mathematics minor, which is offered through the College of Arts and Sciences, will still be available to students, and no equivalent notice has been posted for the minor.
Freshmen who planned on studying actuarial science at Penn voiced frustration at the decision and the the fact that Wharton administrators did not issue any public notice of the change.
Wharton freshman Julian Zambrano, who said he specifically came to Penn to study actuarial science, said he first noticed the change last week when he saw that the Wharton homepage no longer listed actuarial science as one of the concentrations.
“I felt like I was a little left in the dark,” Zambrano said. “It seemed like not everyone was sure about what was happening and then one day, we just happened to check the website, and then the concentration was gone. I would have liked a little more transparency.”
When Zambrano contacted Wharton for more information, officials said STAT 451 will be offered in fall 2020. It is unclear, however, if the school will continue to offer STAT 452 and 453, which are required courses if students want to concentrate in actuarial science. While STAT 451 and 452 cover the fundamental of actuarial science, STAT 453 teaches actuarial statistics.
The actuarial science concentration required three statistics courses (STAT 451, 452, and 453) as well as another elective. Penn InTouch shows that STAT 452 will be offered next semester, but STAT 451 and STAT 453 were not listed as options. Currently, four of the six electives are also available next semester.
Wharton freshman Ana Romo said she was caught off guard when she realized actuarial science was not a concentration anymore. Romo said she applied to concentrate in actuarial science, but can now no longer complete it.
Wharton freshman Bhavini Varsani, who was planning to concentrate in actuarial science, said the school should have been more transparent and informed students of the change.
“At the end of the day, I still want to do actuarial science, so if they don’t offer the course, we will probably have to self-study for the exams,” Varsani said, referring to the external exams needed to be recognized as a professional. “It’s not really going to affect my career. It’s just going to affect how difficult it will be for me to pass the exams.”
Varsani, who applied to Penn specifically to study actuarial science, said she might switch to concentrate in business analytics or statistics.
“The main issue is that we still don’t even know with 100% certainty which classes are canceled, [and] in terms of the concentration, how we can still pursue that if we still want to,” Wharton freshman Tiffany Chyke-Okpuzor said. “It’s very frustrating especially when advance registration is here and you are trying to plan for the future.”